A few years ago, some friends of mine, Dolly, Lilly, and Jane, found themselves overworked and wanting more balance in their lives. They were wives and moms but had little time for their families.
One night over drinks—lots of drinks—they stumbled on a solution: eliminate their boss and institute changes in the organization to benefit the working moms that would replace him. It sounds a little drastic, I know, but effective nonetheless.
OK, I admit it: this is really the plot from the 1980 movie “9 to 5”, but the ideas were revolutionary for their time. All the workplace changes these women made benefited the women as mothers to provide more balance and happiness in their lives.
As much as we love our jobs as teachers, sometimes it’s difficult to balance our family, personal lives, and our career. We love spending time with our significant other and our children—even our furry children—but we also find our career fulfilling. As the school year begins, the scales tend to tip toward career more than family.
If there’s one big idea for that balance that we teachers can learn from “9 to 5”, it’s job sharing. Many teachers and working moms—including me—are discovering more balance through job sharing, two people sharing one professional position. Job sharing is better than a part-time job because 1) it pays a portion of a salary instead of an hourly wage and 2) it’s a professional position.
I’m going to share my own personal story of job sharing in hopes that you’ll learn about the benefits, but I am also going to provide valuable links and information for you to investigate the practice yourself.
After seeing “9 to 5”, I didn’t think about job sharing again until my first year of teaching. Looking through HR documents within my district for one that I needed, I discovered an obscure link: “job sharing.” At the time I was learning to balance a very fulfilling—-but time-consuming job—while raising a two year old.
In my school district, job sharing required two tenured teachers, so I knew I had to wait at least the requisite 3 years to receive my tenure. I tucked away the idea in my back pocket for the future.
Fast forward a few years and I’m tenured, plus I know an awesome, semi-retired teacher that would be a perfect fit for a job share.
Jill, a highly intelligent and engaging woman, retired from teaching early due to her own lack of balance between family and work. She would substitute teach now and then, just so she could still teach and earn some extra money.
Together Jill and I hatched a plan—over coffee, not drinks—to create our own ideal job share. Jill would teach one day a week, I would teach the other four. At 80%, many districts allow you to keep full-time benefits. We did need to create a detailed plan for how we would share the classroom duties, but in the end we found a perfect balance.
It’s now the second month of our job share and we both love it—the students have not only adjusted to two loving, intelligent teachers, but also two happy teachers.
We’re still working out the kinks but we’ll figure it all out—teachers are pretty savvy that way. I loved my job before, but now I have so much more balance.
Have I enticed you with the prospects of job sharing for a more balanced teaching life? Here’s the skinny on job sharing from the details to the pros and cons.
The Details. The details of job sharing vary by district. Some districts—like mine—only allow tenured teachers to job share and classroom arrangements have to be approved every year. Some allow job shares by semester, by week, which is the most common, and even by day—split between morning and afternoon.
The job share details depend upon the district and your position. Many districts have job sharing for teachers. You’ll just need to check out the specifics.
For our classroom, we’re departmentalized in 5th grade. I’m an ELA teacher with two classes. Jill teaches the writing curriculum on Fridays while I teach the reading standards throughout the week and incorporate writing in centers and lessons, since writing to text is essential in reading. The 4:1 day week works for us but you may need something different.
The Impact. Through the course of my own job share I’ve learned that many teachers have never heard of the concept of job sharing. But you can find lots of information! Here are a few I found super helpful:
How to create a successful job share. This article, based upon research with job sharing classroom teachers, provides an excellent foundation.
Making job sharing work in primary. Mrs. Shalford, with years of job sharing experience, includes tips learned through years of experience in a primary classroom.
Job Share Pros and Cons. Going into a job share with all the information is essential. You’ll find a list of pros and cons on Thoughtco.
For me, job sharing has been a fun and exciting adventure. I enjoy my co-teacher’s experience and wisdom, and my kids enjoy the variety of two teachers.
Since having my son I’ve sought the balance I wanted and needed for my own happiness—from leaving the career of my dreams to becoming a classroom teacher, to becoming an instructional coach—I’ve found that balance through many strategies. The job share provides the most impact on for my own balance and joy. I’m sure with your intelligence and creativity, you’ll find the best strategy, too.